Project Coast: South Africa’s Top Secret Chemical And Biological Weapon Program

1938 words - 8 pages

To protect the safety of the country and people of South Africa, those who hold authority or control in the decision making process sometimes are faced with making tough decisions. When it comes to South Africa, President P. W. Botha decided that to best protect the welfare of the citizens, a defensive measure must be established that was secure and efficient. The idea of such measures brought on an evolution of a secret chemical and biological weapons program which became known as Project Coast. The personnel that knew of its existence hid the program from the world and used various measures to ensure that this program remained their little secret. However, no secret lays dormant forever. The idea of S. Africa partaking in such measures shined a distasteful light on a country that was already divided and fighting amongst each itself. Project Coast was against all the morals of what the United Nations had established and stood for peace and working together unified. The S. African government knew this; the pride and protection of their well-being outweighed what was right.
South Africa’s choice to begin a Chemical and Biological Weapons Program (CBW) was unsound but this was not the first time the country experimented with such lethal weapons. History reveals that during World War II, South Africa participated in the manufacturing of mustard gas when the Smuts government assisted Great Britain (Gould & Folb, 2002). There were two manufacturing plants that produced the gas, but by 1945 production ended and the plants were closed. When these plants were closed the idea of research still lingered on the minds of those who held office.
Some years later, in 1960, a company called Mechem was founded and headed by Dr. J. P. De Villiers. Meachem’s purpose was to be utilized as research centre on chemical warfare and function as the Chemical Defence Unit of the Centre of Scientific and Industry Research which fell under the Department of Trade and Industry. (Berger & Gould, 2002) Dr. De Villiers insinuated that there was no clear concise reason to assume that South Africa was prone to a chemical or biological attack, but weapons of this sort would be a booster to the South African Defence Force (SADF). In 1977, he wrote that, “The treatment of terrorist bases with a non-persistent, non-lethal agent just before a security force attack can affect both the terrorists’ ability to defend themselves and their ability to escape.” (Gould & Folb, 2002). His words were powerful due to the fact he presented an idea of weakening an enemy early can be essential to achieving the victory.
Approximately three years prior to the initiation of Project Coast, Dr. De Villiers, summarized that South Africa had a minimal threat for chemical weapons being used against them. He reiterated that having such weapons would be useful to the Defence Force, but he saw biological weapons as no threat at all. Changes and factors in the way they thought about chemical...

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